Skip to main content

Full text of "Ritual and Belief"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 


hardly prepared for the paralysis which must follow despair as to the 
reserves of moral power resident in the great labor population. The 
policy of concerted political action on the part of labor, which the author 
advocates, demands a faith which the avalanche of woe and injustice 
seems temporarily to have swept away or buried. 

Not to make light of this candid and brave attack upon established 
institutions and property rights we feel that books written under the 
juniper tree often need to be revised by that still small voice which 
reveals unmeasured and unexhausted reserves making for righteousness. 
One thing, however, is evident: ordinary Christian faith produces today 
no such earnestness as does the socialism of this book. When a man 
believes a thing in this way what can he do but "cry aloud" ? 

Allan Hoben 
University op Chicago 


Modern functional psychology has had much to do with the trend 
of our present-day religious thought toward a fuller recognition of the 
value of ceremonial observances in the practice of religion, and we are 
indebted to the anthropologists for gathering from peoples in all parts 
of the earth, and of various grades of social culture and intellectual 
development, the proofs of the evolution of religion and of the essential 
r61e which ritual has played in its history. 

The three books before us, 1 though widely different in size, scope, 
and method of treatment, have as their common purpose the setting 
forth of some phase of this development. 

The work of Rev. D. C. Owen is the most general in its treatment, and 
contributes the least in the way of originality, or first-hand knowledge, 
purporting to be nothing more than a summarized statement of other 
men's investigations. Hardly has one entered on the perusal of this 
brief treatise, however, before the question of the interpretation of the 
facts set forth forces itself on one's consideration. Primitive man is said 
to recognize in nature a force superior to his own and to know "that it 

1 Ritual and Relief: Studies in the History of Religion. By Edwin Sidney Hart- 
land. New York: Scribner, 1014. jriv+352 pages. $3.00. 

The Infancy of Religion. By D. C. Owen. London: Milford, 1014. vi+143 
pages. 3s. 6d. 

Die volkstunUichen Feste des Jahres. By Martin P. Nilsson. (Religionsge- 
schichtliche Volksbilcher fur die deutsche christliche Gegenwart. III. Reihe, 17.-18. 
Heft.) Tubingen: Mohr, 19 14. 76 pages. M. 1.30. 


is wielded by a living being stronger than himself. Since he is naturally 
disposed to the recognition of supernatural beings, any extraordinary 
feat of nature displayed before his eyes stimulates into activity his sense 
of their presence" (p. 25). It is always very easy for us to assume that 
a thing is natural because it seems so to us, and in this connection we 
may notice the further assumption that our natural endowment is 
superior to that of the savage, an idea that is not as popular among 
students of psychology today as it once was. The child of civilized 
parents if contrasted with the "rude man of uncivilized regions," and 
we are told that "from the mind of the child after it has been properly 
trained and educated you can hope for worthy results, but not from the 
mental apparatus of the savage. The soil of his nature is well-nigh 
barren. The memory of the child is a better instrument for its purpose, 
his imagination is more vivid and productive than that of the child-man 
of the undeveloped races." One is tempted to ask if barrenness in this 
instance is a characteristic of the soil, or is due to the unfortunate lack 
of the seed of experience. 

A striking example of divergence in interpretation is found in the 
explanation of the sacredness of some stones (p. 35) where this is attrib- 
uted to the shedding of the blood of a sacred animal upon the stones 
used in sacrifice, in flat contradiction to Farnell who attributes the 
sacredness of the animal to contact with the stone. 1 

The essence of prayer is well said to be "the soul's unsatisfied desire, 
combined with a belief in a power able to set that desire at rest" (p. 92), 
and further: "When rude man has a dangerous business on hand, such 
as war, the sense of the danger he incurred is poignant in the extreme. 
The occasion is just the one for prayer" (p. 93). The conclusion of the 
book is that if man had been "deprived of the support of religion in his 
arduous ascent, he would continually have slipped back to the level 
whence he had started." 

In Ritual and Belief we have a contribution to the discussion of the 
evolution of religion "from the point of view of one who has been con- 
vinced that the emotions and imagination — and not merely the indi- 
vidual, but the collective emotions and imagination — have had at least 
as much to do with the generation of religious practises and beliefs as 
the reason, and that for the form they may have assumed, physical, 
social, and cultural influences must be held accountable" (pp. xiii, xiv). 

The greater part of the book is given up to a discussion of "The 
Relations of Religion and Magic." This has been expanded from two 

1 Hibbert Journal, II, 313. 


presidential addresses before the Anthropological Section of the British 
Association for the Advancement of Science. The author tells us that, 
in his opinion, we shall find the key to primitive philosophy in the relation 
of the personal and the impersonal, and we are at once plunged into the 
very midst of the dispute as to interpretation, for on the supposed dis- 
tinction between the two hangs the contention of the Animistic school 
of exponents. The difficulty lies in the fact that the savage has no such 
clear-cut consciousness of personality as we have, nor does he seem to 
have the equally clear-cut and opposing conception of things being 
«»»-personal. There is no doubt that primitive peoples think of almost 
everything as being imbued with some sort of life, as was pointed out 
in the work of Dussaud reviewed in these pages nearly a year ago (XVIII, 
636). This Dussaud speaks of as a principe de vie, and Levy-Bruhl calls 
it la loi de participation} The only dispute is whether this life is actually 
conceived of in terms which we should call personal, as the "Animists" 
maintain, or whether it is only a sort of mechanical force, to use present- 
day terminology, as the "Dynamists" maintain. Hartland cites 
instances of the belief that personality — human personality — adheres. 
to or persists in the possessions of a person (and has civilization entirely 
banished this idea from our own minds?) which he thinks "exhibit a 
concept of personality imperfectly crystallized. It is still fluid and 
vague, only to become entirely definite under the influence of trained 
reason and larger and more scientific knowledge. But, such as it is, 
there is behind and around it the still vaguer, the unlimited territory of 
the Impersonal, because the Unknown" (p. 34). He then passes on to 
consider the orenda of the Iroquois, the manitou of the Algonquin, and 
the wakonda of the Omaha, all of which point to the same reality. 

What we appear to have, among the North American Indians, at 
least, is two distinct conceptions: the possession of what Hartland calls 
a "potentiality or atmosphere" of its own, by the individual personality 
— human or non-human; and a mysterious, undefined reservoir of an 
apparently impersonal power in the universe as a whole. But our author 
says that "these two conceptions are not mutually exclusive, for the 
impersonal power is often held to be the source of the personal power or 
potentiality" (p. 45), and so we find ourselves no nearer an understand- 
ing of the difference than we were before! 

We have noted these variations of what appears to be a single idea, 
rather to call attention again to the difficulty of interpretation, than 
with any intention of attempting to distinguish between them, but also 

1 Les Fonctions mentales dans les soctitts inftrieures, pp. 68 ff ., Paris, 1910. 


because they form the background of the author's discussion of the 
relations of religion and magic. He concludes the first section, which 
he calls "The Common Root," with these words: "I venture to suggest 
that in man's emotional response to his environment, in his interpretation 
in the terms of personality of the objects which encountered his attention, 
and in their investiture by him with potentiality, atmosphere, orenda, 
mana — call it by what name you will — we have the common root of 
magic and religion" (p. 66). He finds, as does Shrader, 1 that they differ 
only in their method of approach. The spells of magic are "drafts 
upon heaven, for which the gods cannot refuse payment" (p. 87), while 
the gods of religion "are personal, are endowed with free will, are to be 
approached with true worship, and may or may not grant the prayers 
of their suppliants" (p. 88). 

The rest of the essay is given up to the development and the differ- 
entiation of these two ways of dealing with the mysterious power in the 

The relation of ritual to both magic and religion is explained on the 
theory of an emotional reaction, natural and almost involuntary at first, 
which in proportion to the magnitude of the cause which provoked the 
emotion, or the extent to which it had affected the individuals, becomes 
established in memory and by repetition, and reinstatement of the emo- 
tion soon establishes itself as a habit. This form of reaction would end 
in a solemn rite, endowed with the power to produce the effect with 
which it is now inseparably associated. In other words, "ritual, reli- 
gious or magical, is evolved long before belief has become definite and 
cogent"(p. 119). 

Professor Nilsson, of Lund, Sweden, says in his preface that he has 
attempted to "supply a presentation of the Christian year and its his- 
tory, in which the popular element shall have full consideration," a sort 
of investigation which he thinks has been "scandalously neglected" by 
Protestant investigators since the pioneer Usener. The main theme of 
the exposition is what we should probably call " evergreens " (Maienzweig) 
and their use in popular festivals, in which the author finds the last 
remnant of an early and widespread cult of trees, which was particularly 
powerful among Indo-Germanic peoples (p. 6). Because the power 
dwelling in the trees — orenda again, though not known as such — is pri- 
marily a vegetation spirit, we find the use of its emblems in connection 
with the festivals of Springtime and Harvest, and the related ceremonies 
have come to be associated with many of the festivals of the Christian year. 

1 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, II, 40. 


Two interesting pieces of folk-lore connected with the observance 
of New Year and Christmas must close this brief summary. The festival 
of the New Year is traced to the entrance into office of the rex bibendi 
of the Saturnalia at Rome, from the year 153 B.C., which led to this day 
becoming the popularly recognized beginning of the year, and thus gave 
rise to its name, and its celebration with feasting and decorations (p. 58). 
This may be the history of our New Year, but will hardly explain the 
same customs in the Orient. 

The Christmas tree, we must admit, has, like most of our Christmas 
toys, been "made in Germany." The first historical mention of it is 
said to have been in Strasburg in 1605 (p. 17), and it found its way to 
England with the Prince Consort in 1840, though reaching this country 
earlier with the first German emigrants. We are told quite seriously 
that "it is now quite common in London" ("in London ist er jetzt recht 
haufig") (p. 20). 

Whatever may be the correct interpretation of these and other per- 
sistent customs and ritual observances, their original and continued 
association with the religious life cannot be gainsaid. Shall they con- 
tinue and religion disappear ? Or again shall we succeed in preserving 
religion without them ? ^ yj Cooke 

Chicago, III. 


After his coronation in London four years ago, when King George V 
of Great Britain was preparing to proceed to the Durbar in Delhi there 
in person to proclaim and assume his sovereignty as emperor of India, 
he ordered to be brought to him the clearest, fairest handbook on the 
chief religion of the foreign country over which he was to rule. The 
book which was selected was A Primer of Hinduism by Mr. John N. 
Farquhar, M.A. No ardent Hindu and no erudite western scholar had 
produced a book at once so scholarly, discriminating, illuminating for a 
summary friendly acquaintance with the religion of the more than two 
hundred million Hindus. 

Two years later the same author followed up that resume of the 
historical development and the present condition of Hinduism with 
another even more notable treatment of the same vast subject. Far- 
quhar's The Crown of Hinduism is the pre-eminent Christian critique of 
the chief factors in Hinduism and of the system as a whole. 

1 Modem Religious Movements in India. By J. N. Farquhar. New York: 
Macmillan, 1915. xvi+471 pages. $2.50.